VA is testing new program to reduce veterans' wait times - We Are The Mighty
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VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Some ailing veterans can now use their federal health care benefits at CVS “MinuteClinics” to treat minor illnesses and injuries, under a pilot program announced April 18 by the Department of Veterans Affairs.


The new program, currently limited to the Phoenix area, comes three years after the VA faced allegations of chronically long wait times at its centers, including its Phoenix facility, which treats about 120,000 veterans.

The Phoenix pilot program is a test-run by VA Secretary David Shulkin who is working on a nationwide plan to reduce veterans’ wait times.

Veterans would not be bound by current restrictions under the VA’s Choice program, which limits outside care to those who have been waiting more than 30 days for an appointment or have to drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Instead, Phoenix VA nurses staffing the medical center’s help line will be able to refer veterans to MinuteClinics for government-paid care when “clinically appropriate.”

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
David Shulkin. (Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs)

Shulkin has made clear he’d like a broader collaboration of “integrated care” nationwide between the VA and private sector in which veterans have wider access to private doctors. But, he wants the VA to handle all scheduling and “customer service” — something that veterans groups generally support but government auditors caution could prove unwieldy and expensive.

On April 19, President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation to temporarily extend the $10 billion Choice program until its money runs out, pending the administration’s plan due out by fall. That broader plan would have to be approved by Congress.

“Our number one priority is getting veterans’ access to care when and where they need it,” said Baligh Yehia, the VA’s deputy undersecretary for health for community care. “The launch of this partnership will enable VA to provide more care for veterans in their neighborhoods.”

Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., a long-time advocate of veterans’ expanded access to private care, lauded the new initiative as an “important step forward.”

“Veterans in need of routine health care services should not have to wait in line for weeks to get an appointment when they can visit community health centers like MinuteClinic to receive timely and convenient care,” he said.

Also read: 9 ways the VA says it’s joining the modern world

The Veterans Health Administration said it opted to go with a CVS partnership in Phoenix after VA officials there specifically pushed for the additional option. They cited the feedback of local veterans and the success of a smaller test run with CVS last year in Palo Alto, Calif.

Shulkin has said he wants to expand private-sector partnerships in part by looking at wait times and the particular medical needs of veterans in different communities. Successful implementation of his broader plan will depend on the support of key members of Congress such as McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee.

The VA did not indicate whether it received requests from other VA medical centers or how quickly it might expand the program elsewhere.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The current Choice program was developed after the 2014 scandal in Phoenix in which some veterans died, yet the program has often encountered long waits of its own. The bill being signed by Trump seeks to alleviate some of the problems by helping speed up VA payments and promote greater sharing of medical records. Shulkin also has said he wants to eliminate Choice’s 30-day, 40 mile restrictions, allowing the VA instead to determine when outside care is “clinically needed.”

Despite a heavy spotlight on its problems, the Phoenix facility still grapples with delays. Only 61 percent of veterans surveyed said they got an appointment for urgent primary care when they needed it, according to VA data.

Maureen McCarthy, the Phoenix VA’s chief of staff, welcomed the new CVS partnership but acknowledged a potential challenge in providing seamless coordination to avoid gaps in care. She said a veteran’s medical record will be shared electronically, with MinuteClinic providing visit summaries to the veteran’s VA primary care physician so that the VA can provide follow-up services if needed.

The VA previously experimented with a similar program last year in the smaller market of Palo Alto, a $330,000 pilot to provide urgent care at 14 MinuteClinics. CVS says it’s pleased the VA has opted to test out a larger market and says it’s ready to roll the program out nationally if successful.

CVS, the biggest player in pharmacy retail clinics, operates more than 1,100 of them in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

“We believe in the MinuteClinic model of care and are excited to offer our health care services as one potential solution for the Phoenix VA Health Care System and its patients,” said Tobias Barker, chief medical officer of CVS MinuteClinic.

Articles

Make-a-Wish founder and Air Force veteran Frank Shankwitz dead at 77. His legacy will live forever.

Air Force veteran, founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and absolute giant of a man, Frank Shankwitz, passed away earlier this week at the age of 77.

This is his story.

To say Frank Shankwitz had a rough childhood is an understatement. Shankwitz was born in Chicago and his mother left him when he was young. His grandparents took him, which he recalled as “happy times,” until one day his mother kidnapped him off a playground and told him they were heading back to Arizona.

They stopped in Michigan for five years.

When he was 10, they finally reached a tiny town in Arizona on Route 66. “We were broke,” Shankwitz said. “We had no gas, no food, no money, but a family took us in. We slept on their kitchen floor. It was the first time we’d ever been permanent somewhere, kitchen floor or not. A man named Juan became like a father-figure to me, and he introduced me to the idea of giving back. This was the 1950s – ‘give back’ was not a real popular term yet. But he taught me that you can always give back. It doesn’t have to be money – it can be your time or your talents.”

In the seventh grade, Shankwitz’s mom informed him that she could no longer afford to keep him; she was moving and he needed to find a new place to live.

Juan found him a place to stay in town with a widow and Shankwitz paid the weekly rent by finding a job as a dishwasher that paid per week. “All of a sudden I had an extra a week,” he said. “Juan taught me how to turn a negative into a positive and that has been something I’ve carried with me through my entire career.”

Shankwitz went to the Air Force after high school. “It was the Vietnam era,” he recalled, “but they decided I needed to protect England. I remember when we were informed we were not to wear our uniforms during traveling – they were afraid we’d offend the public. I’m so proud today to see our service members wearing their uniforms at airports. I love hearing people thanking them and clapping for them. You should never be embarrassed of the uniform. It’s so important that our military always be proud of their service.”

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
A child gets his wish to be an aviator.

Following his time with the Air Force, Shankwitz went to work for Motorola. He describes himself then as “somewhat of an adrenaline junkie,” so when a friend of his suggested joining the Arizona Highway Patrol, he jumped at the chance. Shankwitz got involved with the Special Olympics in his off time. “I began to think about Juan,” he shared, “and how maybe I was starting to give back. I enjoyed that so much.” At work, Shankwitz was asked to join a motorcycle patrol that traveled to schools to teach kids about bike safety and he felt like he was getting closer to where he needed to be in serving others.

In 1978, Shankwitz was in a high speed chase with a drunk driver when another drunk driver broadsided him going 80 miles per hour. “I was pronounced dead immediately,” he explained, “and they’d already radioed in ‘963, Officer killed in the line of duty.’ An emergency room nurse from California stopped at the scene and did CPR for four minutes, and brought me back to life. I love California! They said the crash was spectacular. I’d gone through the tunnel and I saw the light. And then I came back. I remember when my senses came back. The sense of smell was first. I smelled this very nice perfume. Then the sense of touch; something was tickling my face. Then the sense of hearing – sirens all around and someone saying, ‘We’ve lost him.’ Last was the sense of sight. And I saw that a beautiful blonde had her lips locked on me and I thought it was heaven! Later, I was told I was saved for a purpose, and that God believed I had more to do. I needed to find out what that purpose was.”

Not two years later, Shankwitz received a radio call from his dispatcher saying she needed him to find the nearest telephone, which was 40 miles away. She put him through to a border patrol agent who had an assignment for him. Shankwitz remembers verbatim: ‘There’s a little boy named Chris. He’s 7 years old. He has leukemia, and he has 2 weeks to live. He likes to watch a show called CHiPs and he wants to be a motorcycle cop just like Ponch and Jon. We’re going to pick him up and have you standing by so he can meet a real motorcycle cop.’ I was in. I got on the bike and flew to the hospital.”

When the helicopter landed, Shankwitz was surprised that Chris wasn’t super sick looking. “Instead,” he said, “this tiny pair of red sneakers jumped out and came running over. He knew every button and switch on that motorcycle. I am watching him thinking, ‘He’s a typical 7 year old, and yet he’s going to die.’ Then I saw his mom, tears in her eyes, seeing her little boy again instead of just this sick patient. Chris became the first and only honorary officer of the Arizona Highway Patrol. We felt pretty good about what we’d done but we knew there was more for him.”

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Chris Greicius, photo courtesy of Make-A-Wish

The troopers rallied around Chris. “We went to the uniform store, and asked if they could make Chris his own uniform,” Shankwitz said. “Two women spent all night custom-making a uniform for him. The next morning, we took several motorcycles and cars, lights going, and brought the uniform to him and a smokey hat. He was ecstatic. He asked if he was an official motorcycle police officer, but we told him that he had to earn his wings. We set up traffic cones for him in his driveway and gave him a test, which of course he passed.”

Chris told Shankwitz, “I’m so happy my wish is coming true.” It was the first time Shankwitz had really ever heard that: “my wish.”

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Shankwitz with Chris. Photo courtesy Frank Shankwitz

Shankwitz and his team went to pick up the custom-made wings they had commissioned for Chris when he got a radio call: the little boy had been taken to the hospital and was in a coma. Shankwitz was devastated.

“We took the wings to his room anyway,” he said, “and just as I pinned his wings on the uniform, Chris came out of the coma. He started giggling. ‘Am I a motorcycle officer now?’ he asked. I told him yes. A few hours later he passed away. I like to believe those wings carried him to heaven.”

The Arizona Highway Patrol did a full police funeral for Chris. Shankwitz explained, “In Chris, we lost a fellow officer that day. When we got to Illinois where he was going to be buried, we were pulled over by the Illinois State Police. When we told them what we were doing, they escorted us. We were met at the cemetery by Illinois Police, all in dress uniform. Like I said, we lost a fellow officer that day.”

“Chris was buried in his uniform. His tombstone reads Chris Greicius, Arizona Trooper. It was a truly unbelievable sight. When we got home, we asked, ‘Why can’t we do this for other children?’ And Make-A-Wish was born. It started with in a bank account. There are now 60 chapters in the United States and Make-A-Wish International has 39 affiliates, serving children in nearly 50 countries on five continents. Over 500,000 wishes have been granted.

Shankwitz said, “Every 34 minutes a child gets a wish, because of one little boy. Never underestimate the difference one person can have on the world.”

More about Frank Shankwitz and the Make-A-Wish Foundation can be found in his memoir, Wish Man, which has also been developed into a movie by the same title, available on Netflix. Rest in peace, good sir.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Americas don’t like Russia’s nuclear bomber deployment

The Organization of American States (OAS) has expressed the “greatest concern” about the arrival of nuclear-capable Russian aircraft in Venezuela.

In a statement released on Dec. 12, 2018, the OAS General Secretariat said it “takes note with the greatest concern of the news coming from Venezuela about the possibility that aircraft capable of using nuclear weapons from Russia are in its territory.”


It said the presence of the foreign military mission violates the Venezuelan Constitution “because it has not been authorized by the National Assembly, as required [by the constitution].”

“Therefore, we consider such an act harmful to Venezuelan sovereignty,” added the OAS, which consists of all 35 independent nations of the Americas, including the United States.

Nuclear-Capable Russian Bombers Arrive In Venezuela | NBC News

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Russia’s Defense Ministry on Dec. 10, 2018, sent two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to Venezuela, in an unusual display of Russian military force in South America, raising tensions with the United States.

The ministry did not say if they were carrying weapons.

The bombers’ arrival came just days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited Moscow, seeking Kremlin support for his country, whose economy is in shambles and deeply in debt to Russia.

Venezuela has purchased millions of dollars in military equipment from Russia in recent years.

The deployment of the aircraft drew a particularly pointed response from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a posting to Twitter.

“The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer,” Pompeo wrote.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Dec. 11, 2018, that Pompeo’s comments were “undiplomatic” and “completely inappropriate.”

On Dec. 12, 2018, the White House said it had been assured by the Kremlin that the planes would leave Venezuela on Dec. 14, 2018.

“We have spoken with representatives of Russia and have been informed that their military aircraft, which landed in Venezuela, will be leaving on [Dec. 14, 2018] and going back to Russia,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Reuters.

Oil-rich Venezuela has been racked by economic and political crises since 2010 under leftist leader Hugo Chavez and has continued into Maduro’s presidency.

Millions have fled the country, driven by violence, hyperinflation, and major shortages of food.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US & Canadian jets scrambled to intercept Russian nuclear-capable bombers

U.S. and Canadian fighter jets were scrambled to escort two Russian nuclear-capable bombers away from the North American coastline in the Arctic region, military officials say.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) on Jan. 26, 2019, said two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers were identified entering an area patrolled by the Royal Canadian Air Force on Jan. 25, 2019.

It said two U.S. F-22 and two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets flew to the location and escorted the Russian bombers out of the zone. The U.S. jets flew out of a base in the U.S. state of Alaska, the military said.


The reports did not specify the exact location of the encounter. The military monitors air traffic in the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone, which extends 320 kilometers off Alaska.

Russian state-run TASS news agency on Jan. 27, 2019, cited U.S. officials as saying the Russian jets did not enter “sovereign territory.”

It quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying the two strategic bombers “completed a scheduled flight over neutral waters of the Arctic Ocean [and] practiced refueling” during a 15-hour flight.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

A Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor fighter jet.

There were no reports of conflict between the Russian and the U.S. and Canadian warplanes.

“NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States,” General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the NORAD commander, said in a statement.

“Our ability to protect our nations starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching U.S. and Canadian airspace.”

NORAD, a combined U.S.-Canadian command, uses radar, satellites, and aircraft to monitor aircraft entering U.S. or Canadian airspace.

U.S. officials have reported several incidents of U.S. and Canadian jets scrambling to intercept Russian warplanes and escorting them from the region.

In September 2018, the Pentagon issued a protest after U.S. Air Force fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers in international airspace west of Alaska.

In that incident, the jets followed the Russian craft until they left the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone.

In April 2017, Russian warplanes flew near Alaska and Canada several times, prompting air defense forces to scramble jets after a two-year lull in such activity.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the incident, saying the bombers were performing “scheduled flights over neutral waters” when they were escorted by the U.S. F-22 warplanes.

Encounters between Russian and NATO warplanes in various parts of the world have increased in recent years as Moscow demonstrates its resurgent military might.

Moscow said it scrambled a jet in June 2017 to intercept a nuclear-capable U.S. B-52 bomber it said was flying over the Baltic Sea.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Russia’s inflatable arsenal is one of the oldest tricks in the book

The Russian Ministry of Defense has started deploying an old kind of military deception: inflatable weaponry.


The Russian government has a growing supply of inflatable military gear, including tanks, jets, and missile batteries, provided by hot-air balloon company RusBal, as detailed by a report by The New York Times.

Also read: WWII ‘Ghost Army’ may be up for Congressional Gold Medal

A demonstration in a field near Moscow illustrated the ingenuity behind the idea.

The inflatables deploy quickly and break down just as fast. They transport relatively easily, providing targets that may not only draw the enemy’s fire but also affect their decision-making process, burdening a rival’s leadership with the task of verifying targets.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
An inflatable mock-up of a T-72 tank, from the 45th Separate Engineer-Camouflage Regiment of Russia.

“If you study the major battles of history, you see that trickery wins every time,” Aleksei A. Komarov, RusBal’s director of military sales, told The Times. “Nobody ever wins honestly.”

Inflatable weaponry has a history on Europe’s battlefields. Prior to the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944, Gen. George S. Patton was placed in charge of the First US Army Group (FUSAG) — a phantom force housed in cities of empty tents and deployed in vehicles made of wood, fabric, or inflatable rubber.

After Allied forces had a foothold in France, the “Ghost Army,” as it came to be called, continued to serve a purpose, as it was responsible for more than 20 illusions that befuddled German military leadership and disguised actual Allied troop movements in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Moscow’s modern-day iteration of the inflatable army fits with a distinctly Russian style of subterfuge: Maskirovka, a Russian doctrine that mixes strategic and tactical deception with the aim of distorting an enemy’s conception of reality, bogging down decision-makers at every level with misinformation and confusion.

Maskirovka is a longstanding practice of Russian planners. During the Cold War, maps created for the Russian public were filled with tiny inaccuracies that would make them useless should they fall into the hands of rival military planners. The cartographer who came up with the ruse was given the State Prize by Josef Stalin.

A more recent version of maskirovka was displayed in Ukraine in 2014, when masked or otherwise disguised soldiers showed up in Crimea, and later by other soldiers purportedly “vacationing” in eastern Ukraine.

According to The Times, Russian military leaders were dubious about the inflatable hardware at first, but they appear to have been won over.

“There are no gentlemen’s agreements in war,” Maria Oparina, the director of RusBal and daughter of the founder, told The Times.

“There’s no chivalry anymore. Nobody wears a red uniform. Nobody stands up to get shot at. It’s either you or me, and whoever has the best trick wins.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march

The day before Thanksgiving is a time many people spend with family and friends. This year, Marines and Sailors of 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division decided to spend their time giving back to the local community.

Approximately 200 Marines and Sailors with 2nd Recon and their families participated in a charity ruck march Nov. 27, 2019. The Battalion loaded up their packs with non-perishable food donations and hiked approximately six miles from the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Main Gate to the United Way CHEW! House in Jacksonville, North Carolina.


“Without the support of the community we wouldn’t be able to support this program. In Jacksonville, Marines are the biggest part of our community and for them to be able to give back to the community is huge.” Shelly Kiewge, the community impact director for United Way

“We have a lot to be thankful for,” said Sgt. Maj. Joseph Mendez, the 2nd Recon Sergeant Major. “As Marines, we are guaranteed the basic things like housing and food. It’s important that we realize that not everyone in our local community has that opportunity.”

The event was organized by 2nd Recon to build unit camaraderie through physical training, and donate much needed food items to the Onslow County United Way’s Children Healthy Eating on Weekends program.

“It’s always important to help out the local community,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph DeBlaay the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of 2nd Recon training command. “For us, it lets the community know we’re here and easy to approach when needed.”

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. David Ford the assistant training chief with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division reads off the total donations after a charity ruck march.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Solak)

The CHEW! Program was created to provide bags packed with healthy food for children in need over the weekend who wouldn’t be fed otherwise. The program helps over 700 school-aged children.

The Marines donated over 3,800 pounds of food to the CHEW! program.

“I want my Marines to understand the importance of this. Not that it’s just a battalion mandated event,” said Staff Sgt. DeBlaay. “I want them to see the importance of why we’re doing this to help out the community and help out those in need.”

This is the second year the battalion has organized this event and plans to continue the tradition in years to come.

“When you join the Marine Corps you do it as a means to help people who traditionally can’t help themselves,” said Lt. Col. Geoff Hoey, battalion commander of 2nd Recon. “Whether it’s people in a different country or helping people here at home who don’t have enough money to put food on the table. It’s inherent to what Marines do — we help people in need.”

This article originally appeared on Marines.mil. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These countries are the worst human traffickers in the world

In a new report, the U.S. State Department says Belarus, Iran, Russia, and Turkmenistan remain among the worst offenders of human trafficking and forced labor.

The department’s annual Trafficking In Persons report, which is aimed at curbing human trafficking, was unveiled in a ceremony in Washington on June 28, 2018, by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump.


It evaluates 187 countries and territories and ranks them into four tiers (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3), with Tier 1 being the best and Tier 3 the worst.

Russia, Belarus, Iran, and Turkmenistan were among 22 countries ranked as Tier 3. Others included Burma (also known as Myanmar), China, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela.

The Russian government “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” the 2018 Trafficking In Persons report stated as a reason why Russia remained among the worst offenders for the sixth year in a row.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

It said Russian authorities “routinely detained and deported potential forced labor victims without screening for signs of exploitation, and prosecuted victims forced into prostitution for prostitution offenses.”

It urged Moscow to investigate allegations and prevent the use of forced labor in construction projects, screen for trafficking indicators before deporting or repatriating migrants, and to establish formal national procedures to aid law enforcement officials.

The report said Belarus, a Tier 3 country since 2015, “maintained policies that actively compelled the forced labor of its citizens, including civil servants, students, part-time workers, and the unemployed, citizens suffering from drug or alcohol dependency, and, at times, critics of the government, among others.”

In Iran, which has been Tier 3 since at least 2011, “trafficking victims reportedly continued to face severe punishment, including death, for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.”

It also accused the government of providing financial support to militias fighting in Iraq that recruited and used child soldiers.

It said Turkmenistan, which remained on the Tier 3 list for the third consecutive year, continued to use “the forced labor of reportedly tens of thousands of its adult citizens in the annual cotton harvest and in preparation for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games” that the country hosted in September 2017.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Pakistan, meanwhile, was upgraded from Tier 3 to Tier 2, with the report crediting Islamabad with “making significant efforts” to tackle trafficking.

It said Pakistan, which had been Tier 3 from 2014-17, “demonstrated increasing efforts by increasing the number of victims it identified and investigations and prosecutions of sex trafficking.”

It cautioned, though, that the country’s overall law enforcement efforts on labor trafficking remained “inadequate compared with the scale of the problem.”

The State Department ranked Georgia as the only former Soviet republic to be a Tier 1 country, a category that comprises 39 countries.

In the middle are the Tier 2 countries, defined as those that do not fully meet the minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.

These include Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Pakistan, Romania, and Serbia.

The report listed 43 countries in danger of being downgraded to Tier 3 in future years. The Tier 2 Watch List includes Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, along with EU member Hungary.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

The US Air Force really did try to suppress an amazing A-10 video

The John Q. Public blog, run by retired Air Force officer Tony Carr, came across a video he suspects was produced by the Air Force’s Combat Camera units, lauding the A-10, its crews, its pilots, and the capabilities of its support for ground troops.


“ComCam is perhaps alone in its possession of the unique combination of access and capability to create something this close to the mission with such superior production values,” Carr writes. “A ComCam airman risked mortal danger to make this film and tell this story, getting immersed in a firefight along the way (you’ll see him drop his camera and hear him discharge his weapon in the video).”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L_TjXXx7eQ

Carr published the video, called Hawg (above), on his blog’s YouTube page and hit more than 935,000 views since it went live on September 4. Its popularity is related to how much the A-10 is beloved by airmen who work and fly the airframe, as well as troops on the ground who need it for close air support. It’s also a really good documentary about the A-10’s combat role. So why would the Air Force not release it?

He suspected the USAF tried to suppress the documentary for political reasons, chiefly the effort by the Air Force to mothball the A-10 in favor of developing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. He tried to get a statement from the Air Force before  releasing it, but received none. After its release, he received a statement from a USAF spokesman explaining the role of Combat Camera and uses of its imagery:

“The documentation was captured by Combat Camera.  The primary intent of Combat Camera missions [is] to ensure documentation of military activities during wartime operations, worldwide crises, and contingencies. The foundational mission of Combat Camera was achieved.  The documentation aided mission assessment. However, the video in your possession never entered the security and policy review process because it was not finalized for any other purpose.”

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Carr found another video, a more polished version of Hawg, called Grunts in the Sky, which contained graphics, music, and credits, which Carr believes is evidence of editorial discretion to get the video through an approval process. That the Hawg video includes unblurred faces of USAF JTAC operators and doesn’t have name titles of the A-10 pilots interviewed there might be some truth to the official statement, as far as COMCAM is concerned. Carr recently learned from sources inside the Air Force the video was approved through its normal process but once it hit a certain staff level, was shot down.

Officers close to the situation said that the wing commander at Bagram threatened UCMJ action against anyone who leaked the video, going so far as invoking the word “mutiny” in his warning.

The Air Force Public Affairs website describes Combat Camera’s mission: “COMCAM imagery serves a visual record of an operation and is of immeasurable value to decision makers in the OSD, Joint Staff, and combatant commands. COMCAM imagery is also significant for public affairs, public diplomacy and psychological operations.

Combat Camera imagery is painstakingly reviewed and released (or not) by Public Affairs Officers while in the field and then back at their home units when other products are created from existing imagery. The Hawg video would have to have been reviewed before its release, including each clip used in its final form.

NOW: BRRRRRT: Congress wants the Air Force to keep the A-10 aircraft that troops totally love

OR: Why the A-10 is the best CAS platform

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 things only siblings of military personnel know

We learn from our siblings. We watch them. We copy them. We accidentally erase the save on their Pokèmon game when we’re 10 years old and they still, to this day, think the game file was “probably ruined from leaving it in the sun too long.”

Maybe siblings of construction workers know why it takes so long to fill in city potholes. Maybe siblings of newscasters know why they all talk in that really creepy rhythm. Maybe siblings of chess masters know the actual names of the “horsey” or the “castle” or the “boob-shaped thingie.”

Then, there are some things that all siblings of military personnel know…


VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

​​​​​Actually knowing how to mail a letter

On base, deployed, or on a ship — we send our love in envelopes. Now look to your left. Look to your right. Neither of those people can properly address an envelope without Google… unless they are both over the age of 70, in which case, you are 100% at a community center playing bingo and should pay better attention to that.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

(Photo by Lt. Col. John Hall/173rd Airborne Brigade)

You do not need to set out a sleeping bag… or blankets… or anything at all

You know how military personnel sleep after coming home. They sleep like astronauts without gravity. They don’t need blankets or pillows. Hell, they barely need a floor.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

(Xinhua/Sipa USA/Newscom)

The difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day

You celebrate the men and women throughout time who have served our country in any capacity on Veterans Day. But you also know that some men and women made the ultimate sacrifice for their loved ones, and they’ve got a day, too.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

The many functions of a styrofoam cup

It turns out this can do much more than hold an .89 cent future-diarrhea-slushie from the gas station. Apparently, they can also: hold dip spit, sunflower seeds, and make a cell phone speaker louder…. Alright, it’s mostly for dip spit.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Why they might not tell a drunk dude at the bar that they served

Besides blabbering two inches away from your face for 45 uninterrupted minutes about their real estate failures and how quick their fastball was in high school, drunk dudes at bars can pose a lot of really uncomfortable and, frankly, dumbass questions. Much like college baseball scouts did to them in the 1980s — it’s best to ignore them.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Why you should willingly answer 3 a.m. calls from some random, 999-999-9999 number

Your civilian homies probably let anything outside their immediate area code go straight to voicemail. If your brother or sister is on deployment, though, you know you can get some calls at any hour of the night from some weird numbers. It’s worth it to stomach the pleas for help from a phony Nigerian prince if it means every 5th one is the resolute voice of your sibling, hundreds of miles away, asking what the new J. Cole album sounds like.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

You have traded your soul for a spaghetti MRE

Once your lips have tasted the eternal glory of it, there can be no going back. Chef Boyardee will taste like blasphemy on the tongue. My soul is currently screaming silently from a jar in the pocket of my brother’s BDUs. I traded it long ago, and it was worth every dehydrated, calorie-packed ounce.

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3 reasons why the Afghan army uniform may not have been a big waste of money

There’s a lot of finger pointing going on over the alleged waste of millions in taxpayer funds to develop and field a uniform for the Afghan army that investigators claim “doesn’t work.”


And while there’s certainly plenty of blame to go around, a long-time military equipment designer who helped develop the green, brown and tan digital ANA duds says it’s not as dumb as people are being lead to believe.

In an interview with We Are The Mighty, the man behind the camouflage pattern, Guy Cramer of HyperStealth Biotechnologies, says there were very specific reasons why the Afghan army chose the uniforms it did, and that it wasn’t a decision imposed by the Pentagon.

1. The camouflage is actually perfect for the environment

Pentagon watchdogs argue the Afghan army uniform is built in a pattern that won’t help conceal soldiers in about 98 percent of Afghanistan’s environment. The country is mostly desert, rock or arid (think the New Mexico or Arizona mountains) and the green-heavy pattern the Afghan army adopted isn’t suited to most of the battlefields soldiers would fight in.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
See, the Marines are using woodland camo in the insurgent hotbed of Sangin. (U.S. military photo)

Cramer told us, however, that at the time the army adopted its pattern, most of the fighting was going on in the agricultural areas of Afghanistan’s south, among ribbons of lush growth flanking irrigation canals and croplands.

In fact, during the intense fight in Helmand province back in 2010 and later, the Marines were authorized to wear a mix of woodland and desert camo pattern MARPAT uniforms due to the more lush agricultural areas where most engagements occurred.

2. It doesn’t glow at night

The pattern adopted by the Afghan army is similar to one that was developed for a competition in the U.S. Army to find an alternative to the gray-green Universal Camouflage Pattern the service began fielding in 2003. Cramer engineered so-called the US4CES family of patterns that in some tests performed far better than the MultiCam pattern the Army eventually settled on.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
These uniforms don’t glow in the dark Mr. Badguy. (U.S Army photo by Pfc. Dixie Rae Liwanag/Released)

One of the things Cramer builds into his patterns is technology to help conceal soldiers at night, not just in daylight. Pentagon watchdogs claim there were several U.S. patterns available for the Afghans to choose from, including the UCP one and the old-style “Battle Dress Uniform” analog pattern.

But Cramer says the UCP and others “glows” at night when seen through night vision — a technology that’s becoming increasingly available to insurgents and terrorists.

The Afghan pattern is designed to help conceal soldiers during night operations, which are increasingly part of the Afghan army’s tactics.

3. It sets the army apart

Sure, Pentagon watchdogs point fingers — and possibly rightly so — at then Afghan defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak for his focus on fashion instead of utility in picking the AFPAT over other patterns like BDUs and desert digital. But Cramer says one of the things Wardak was looking to do was to set his forces apart from the rest of the hodgepodge of Afghanistan’s security forces.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
The patchwork of camouflage patterns used by Afghan security forces causes confusion and are easily obtained by insurgents, experts say. (U.S. military photo)

“He wanted it to be distinct,” Cramer said. “The ANA is highly respected in Afghanistan and he wanted his troops to look different.”

Sounds kinda like the Marine Corps, doesn’t it?

Also, and potentially more importantly, Cramer argues that making a distinct, licensed pattern for the ANA is safer for the troops because it’s harder for insurgents to disguise themselves as friendlies and infiltrate bases.

“Anyone can get their hands on BDUs,” he added.

In fact, there have been several incidents in Afghanistan where insurgents have slipped inside friendly lines wearing Army UCP-pattern uniforms, and the Afghan army wanted to avoid that at all costs, Cramer said.

The fur is flying over the alleged “waste” of $28 million in an Afghan uniform that’s suitable for just 2 percent of Afghanistan’s terrain (if you just include “forest” as your measure), and there’s certainly a lot of waste, fraud and abuse to go around when it comes to bankrolling America’s Afghan allies.

But as with any Washington kerfuffle over Pentagon spending, there’s at least a little more to it than meets the eye.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pink Floyd alum Roger Waters talks to WATM about his concert for (and by) wounded vets

We Are The Mighty sat down with Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters and Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello to chat about the ‘Music Heals’ concert that was held last week in DC to create awareness about MusiCorps — a program that uses the healing power of music to assist wounded vets with their rehabilitation.


And here’s the setlist from the amazing show held at DAV Constitution Hall on October 16:

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

And check out this video from the show of the band playing the Pink Floyd classic, “Comfortably Numb,” featuring wounded warrior and former Army captain Greg Galeazzi on lead guitar:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7urjTOyaZpo

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Rarely seen footage from the Battle of the Bulge

In the brutal cold of the winter of 1944, the German army launched a major offensive against allied troops in the Ardennes Mountains of Belgium, France and Luxemburg in an attempt to split up their opposing forces — what later became the “Battle of the Bulge.”


The Germans’ goal was to wedge themselves in between the American and British armies to recapture the port of Antwerp in the Netherlands in order to control the port facilities.

Just as the battle commenced, massive snowstorms hit the region causing incredibly frigid conditions for allied forces and blocking multiple supply lines.

“During the Bulge, the command broke down, supply broke down, morale broke down, communication broke down, everything broke down,” soldier Rocky Blount recalls. “It was every man for himself.”

Related: How these few Marines held the line at the Chosin Reservoir

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Allied troops getting some much-needed food.

The troops manning the front lines lacked proper winter clothing, and the idea of seeing resupply anytime soon seemed far-fetched.

“We didn’t have overcoats, we didn’t have gloves, we didn’t have scarves,” Rocky Blount lists. “My boots were so bad, I would strip newspapers from bombed out houses and wrap my feet in it.”

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
A soldier in WWII takes a brief moment to care for his worn out feet. (Source: History/Screenshot)

The freezing temperatures caused the brave men’s physical and mental condition to deteriorate, resulting in thousands of casualties.

Though struggling, the men stayed in the fight and eventually outlasted the German army’s offensive.

Also Read: How this Marine inched his way to knock out a Japanese machine gunner

Check out the History channel’s video below to this incredible raw footage for yourself.

YouTube, History
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What German soldiers thought about Americans in the aftermath of World War I

American intelligence wasn’t particularly developed around the time of World War I. In fact, Americans, especially President Woodrow Wilson, didn’t much care for the idea of American spies. 

As the war raged on in Europe, the positive results of intelligence activities conducted by the British began to change people’s minds. In fact, British intelligence collecting the Zimmerman Telegram helped get the U.S. into the war in the first place. The note was an offer by Germany to support Mexico in a war with the United States, should the U.S. enter World War I. The British intercepted the note and published it for the world to see. 

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
A satirical political cartoon by Rollin Kirby depicts a bomb, labelled “Zimmerman note,” exploding in German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman’s hands. (Wikimedia Commons)

After the war, American military intelligence officers reviewed troves of documents that detailed interrogations and intercepted diplomatic cables. They compiled the opinions of German soldiers and citizens upon meeting Americans for the first time. 

It was released in a 1919 report called “Candid Comment on The American Soldier of 1917-1918 and Kindred Topics by The Germans.”

The preface of the 84-page report says it contains the unedited, “unfavorable criticism” of Germans against Americans and soldiers in the American Expeditionary Forces and that “much of the comment is favorable is, therefore, significant.”

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Library of Congress

Here are the top 10 comments about the American soldier from the point of view of their German enemy:

1. Chief of Staff for General von Einem, commander of the Third German Army:

“I fought in campaigns against the Russian Army, the Serbian Army, the Roumanian Army, the British Army, the French Army, and the American Army. All told, in this war I have participated in more than 80 battles. I have found your American Army the most honorable of all our enemies. You have also been the bravest of our enemies and in fact the only ones who have attacked us seriously in this year’s battles. I therefore honor you, and, now that the war is over, I stand ready, for my part, to accept you as a friend.”

2. M. Walter of Minderlittgen:

“The attitude of the American officer towards enlisted men is very different than in our army in which officers have always treated their men as cattle.”

3. Letter extract:

“We shall have a look at the American: the embitterment against him is great. We should have been relieved, but now the American Division has been identified and therefore our Army General Staff has selected the best of our divisions for use against it.”

4. Intelligence from German Deserter: 

“The Americans have a reputation for irresistible courage.”

5. A Captured German Officer:

“One of the captured officers was profoundly impressed by the manner in which the Americans fight. He speaks of their valor, their energy and their scorn of danger. “We shall be obliged to take into account troops which are so well-armed and infused with such a spirit.”

6. German troops in Alsace:

“The troops recently arrived in Alsace were strongly impressed by the good showing of Americans under fire. They mention occurrences in a battle in which they took part, where groups of American soldiers were killed to the last man rather than surrender. Most of the men are still completely dumbfounded. The declare that all is lost.”

7. Escaped Russian Prisoners:

“We have seen numerous French, Italian and British prisoners, but no Americans. The Germans fear the Americans more than any other enemy forces on the front.”

8. Germans at Verdun:

“The soldiers were against the Rainbow Division near Verdun and said they don’t want any more such fighting as they encountered there. The Americans were always advancing and acted more like wild men than soldiers.”

9. James Levy at Remagen

“The Germans have nothing but words of praise for the manner in which American soldiers fight. Admiring their nerve and courage. Their way of advancing greatly discouraged the Germans. The American way of making drives also disheartened them considerably as they were followed up in such quick succession that no opportunity was given to the German to make a quick stand and to dig in and fortify themselves.”

10.  Ludwig Kreuger of Carweiler

“No one can tell me now that they [the Americans] are green and untrained boys, for I know better.”

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